Iranian Women’s Soccer Team Banned from Chance to Compete in Olympics because of the Wearing of Headscarves

Politics and sports and women. Again we have the intermingling of the powerful men in a world sports organization with women athletes and politics. Last week, in an Olympic qualifying round in Amman, Jordan, FIFA (the world soccer governing body) officials refused to allow the Iranian national women’s team to compete in a match with Jordan because they were wearing headscarves that covered their necks.  Thus, Iran forfeited the game and lost out on any chance its women players would have to compete in the Olympics.

Iranian Women's Soccer Team with the "unsafe" head scarves

According to FIFA, the reason for the ban on wearing headscarves was “safety.” FIFA had implemented a new rule last year that allows women to wear “a cap that covers their head to the hairline, but which does not extend below the ears to cover the neck.” Of course, there is no logical reason why a cap that goes to the hairline is safe but a headscarf that goes to the neck is unsafe. And, so, why has FIFA implemented this rule? Well, as frequently happens with FIFA, no one seems to know the real reason. For example, FIFA supposedly has a rule that prohibits players from wearing clothing that has religious or political symbols.  However, as an exception to that rule, FIFA accommodates Muslim women and gives them the choice of wearing long pants instead of shorts.

Iran is certainly complicit in what has occurred. For example, it previously accepted the rule on headscarves when, last summer in Singapore, it had the players on one of its youth teams cover their heads but not their ears or necks.  Interestingly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a soccer fan and has previously interjected himself into soccer disputes. He even, in 2006, lifted a ban on women watching soccer matches in Iranian stadia, but was overruled by “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei. Now, Ahmadinejad has vowed to “seriously confront” FIFA about the ban on headscarves.

The losers in all of this, of course, are the female athletes.  (Isn’t it always?)  They want to play soccer on the world stage and now cannot. According to Shahrzad Mozafar, the team’s former head coach, “This ruling means that women soccer in Iran is over. . . . Headscarves are simply what we wear in Iran.” She said that if FIFA no longer allows Iranian women to wear scarves, the Iranian government will no longer send them abroad for competitions.

Almost certainly, if you ask the players, they would say that it was their choice to forfeit the game because they cannot violate their religious tenets. But can anyone really believe that?  After all, the youth team competed without wearing regular head scarves. No, this is simply another case of patriarchal officials imposing religiosity on its citizens.

I have written previously that I concur with France’s decision to ban the burqa.  But wearing a head scarf is far less dehumanizing than wearing a burqa. It is tempting to think that forcing the women’s team out of international existence will cause Iran to change its patriarchal beliefs. Maybe some additional compromise can be reached. But I think the only realistic move that will allow these women to compete will be for FIFA to eliminate the rule.


5 Responses

  1. If it was Hindu women wear there belief or Jewish women with there head shaved wearing a wig or nun”s playing soccer it will be all good what part of it is “unsafe” it’s football not tackle football . Muslims are used to discrimination anyways!!

    • Oh I 4gort look at the bottom of the screen western way of feminisim “women hit the stge for “Naked” for feminisim ” like that upholds Femsles modesty hay . But it’s dehumanizing to cover up .Seriously Please. Females not animals”sex icons”!!

  2. This seems to be a two front battle. FIFA, on one hand, are being discriminatory against the Iranian women with Islamic values. However, Iran is not necessarily bending the rules either. If women were allowed to walk aroud free of head scarves, then this would be an easily solvable problem. However, FIFA, being an internationally respected association, should make considerations for women and their religious beliefs. Thanks for the post!

  3. The only thing that is stupider than FIFA banning the head scarves is the Iranian team forfeiting over it. It is pathetic to have your values and self identity tied up in a piece of fabric, whatever the religious or political implications. Childish on both parts.

  4. ARGGGHHHH!!!!! I swear I think the writer of these post are only interested In single mindedness… And It is literally killing me inside,, Tearing apart my guts and making me want to hurl…! Why oh Why Mike/Emily.. Is it that they can’t just actually ….

    wait …. wait … wait for it…. ACTUALLY WANT TO WEAR THEIR HIJAB….!!! * Gasp….
    Is the Idea to Impossible So out of this world Insane That small minds can’t understand it..? You wear your panties and bra everyday… And no one is saying that you are wierd or strange or being made to do it against your will ! Does any1 force u to wear shoes when you walk outside,, no because that’s just common sense.. when you chose to wear a beenie or hat does anyone look at you strange? i could go on all day. Well hijab is just another garmet in our closet.. it’s what we choose to wear.. And i’d take my hijab over your tank tops and daisy duke’s anyday.. at least at the end of the day i walk away know that my modesty is still intact..

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